Two Sites in the UK Currently Enrolling Patients
FREMONT, Calif., Nov. 27, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Asterias Biotherapeutics, Inc. (NYSE American: AST), a biotechnology company dedicated to developing cellular immunotherapies to treat cancer and cell-based therapeutics to treat neurological conditions associated with demyelination, today announced enrollment and dosing of the fourth subject in the first-in-human Phase 1 clinical trial of VAC2 in the United Kingdom. This is the first patient enrolled and dosed at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham, UK. This initial clinical trial, which is being sponsored, managed and funded by Cancer Research UK, will examine the safety and tolerability of VAC2 in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) as the study’s primary endpoints. Secondary and tertiary endpoints of the study include evaluations of the immunogenicity of VAC2 in NSCLC.
“We are excited to be participating in this clinical trial using Asterias’ groundbreaking dendritic cell technology, VAC2 for NSCLC,” commented Gary Middleton, Professor of Medical Oncology at The University of Birmingham and Principal Investigator at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, the trial center. “The patient received their sixth and final injection of VAC2 this week and there have been no reported complications.”
“We remain excited about the potential of VAC2 for NSCLC and we are thankful for Cancer Research UK’s sponsorship of the clinical trial and look forward to more patients being enrolled at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, as well as at the third trial site that CRUK is planning on opening,” commented Michael Mulroy, President and Chief Executive Officer of Asterias. “The enrollment timeline for this trial remains on track and we are continuing to evaluate further development of VAC2 as a monotherapy or in combination with other therapies in various cancer indications that may benefit from this therapy.”
VAC2 is an innovative immunotherapy product that contains mature dendritic cells derived from pluripotent stem cells. These non-patient specific (allogeneic) VAC2 cells are engineered to express a modified form of telomerase, a protein widely expressed in tumor cells, but rarely found in normal cells. The modified form of telomerase invokes enhanced stimulation of immune responses to the protein. Similar to an earlier, Asterias-sponsored, hematological cancer program using an autologous approach, the VAC2 dendritic cells instruct the immune system to generate responses against telomerase and, through this mechanism, target tumor cells. VAC2’s mode of action is complementary to and potentially synergistic with other immune therapies such as checkpoint inhibitors or other immune pathway inhibitors.
About Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer and the VAC2 Trial
Lung cancer (both small cell and non-small cell) is the leading cause of cancer-related death, accounting for about one-quarter of all cancer deaths and more than colorectal, breast, and prostate cancers combined. Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) accounts for about 80% to 85% of lung cancers, according to the American Cancer Society. The three main types of NSCLC are adenocarcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and large cell carcinoma. The American Cancer Society’s estimates for lung cancer in the United States for 2017 are: about 222,500 new cases of lung cancer, and about 155,870 deaths from lung cancer. Despite the large number of people afflicted by non-small cell lung cancer, patients remain vastly underserved due to a scarcity of effective treatments. According to statistics published by Cancer Research UK, the five year survival rate for lung cancer patients in England and Wales is less than 10%.
As currently designed, the first VAC2 clinical trial will enroll up to 24 subjects into one of two cohorts, depending on the stage of their non-small cell lung cancer. The first cohort will evaluate VAC2 in up to 12 subjects with advanced non-small cell lung cancer. Subjects in this cohort, who carry the major histocompatibility gene, HLA-A2, will receive six weekly injections of VAC2 and will be followed for safety, immune responses to telomerase and overall clinical survival. These survival results will be compared directly to a control group who meet all of the other inclusion/exclusion criteria but do not possess the HLA-A2 gene. Assuming safety is demonstrated in the first cohort, enrolment will advance to a second cohort. In the second cohort, early stage subjects who have had successful resection of their tumor with no evidence of metastasis will be enrolled. Up to 12 subjects in this second cohort who carry the major histocompatibility allele HLA-A2 will receive six, weekly injections of VAC2 and will be followed for safety, immune responses to telomerase, overall clinical survival and time to relapse. These survival results will again be compared directly to a control group who meet all of the inclusion/exclusion criteria of cohort 2 but are not HLA-A2+. Subjects will be followed for one year for immune response to telomerase and for 2 years for the survival endpoints. The supply of VAC2 to be used in this trial is being manufactured by Cancer Research UK’s Biotherapeutics Development Unit. Asterias and Cancer Research UK are exploring the combination of VAC2 with an immune pathway inhibitor.
About Asterias Biotherapeutics
Asterias Biotherapeutics, Inc. is a biotechnology company dedicated to developing cell-based therapeutics to treat neurological conditions associated with demyelination and cellular immunotherapies to treat cancer. Asterias is presently focused on advancing three clinical-stage programs which have the potential to address areas of very high unmet medical need in the fields of neurology and oncology. OPC1 (oligodendrocyte progenitor cells) is currently in a Phase 1/2a dose escalation clinical trial in spinal cord injury. VAC2 (antigen-presenting allogeneic dendritic cells) is an allogeneic cancer immunotherapy. The Company’s research partner, Cancer Research UK, has commenced a first-in-human clinical trial of VAC2 in non-small cell lung cancer. Asterias is also sponsoring pre-clinical work in two conditions with a demyelinating component: Multiple Sclerosis and White Matter Stroke, and is evaluating other cancer indications where its immunotherapy platform could provide therapeutic benefit. Additional information about Asterias can be found at www.asteriasbiotherapeutics.com.
About Cancer Research UK’s Clinical Development Partnerships
Cancer Research UK’s Clinical Development Partnerships (CDP) is an initiative that aims to develop promising anti-cancer agents from companies that are not able to take them through early phase clinical trials themselves. Under the scheme, Cancer Research UK sponsors and funds early clinical development, while companies retain all underlying rights to their programmes. At the end of the study, companies can decide if they wish to develop the drug further based on the clinical trial results. If they choose not to, the charity may secure an alternative partner and ensure the drug has every possible chance of reaching patients, with a share of future income returned to Cancer Research UK.
About Cancer Research UK’s Centre for Drug Development
Cancer Research UK has an impressive record of developing novel treatments for cancer. The Cancer Research UK Centre for Drug Development, formerly the Drug Development Office, has been pioneering the development of new cancer treatments for 25 years, taking over 140 potential new anti-cancer agents into clinical trials in patients. It currently has a portfolio of around 30 new anti-cancer agents in preclinical development, Phase I or early Phase II clinical trials. Six of these new agents have made it to market including temozolomide for brain cancer, abiraterone for prostate cancer and rucaparib for ovarian cancer. Two other drugs are in late development Phase III trials. This rate of success is comparable to that of any pharmaceutical company.
About Cancer Research UK
- Cancer Research UK is the world’s leading cancer charity dedicated to saving lives through research.
- Cancer Research UK’s pioneering work into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer has helped save millions of lives.
- Cancer Research UK receives no funding from the UK government for its life-saving research. Every step it makes towards beating cancer relies on vital donations from the public.
- Cancer Research UK has been at the heart of the progress that has already seen survival in the UK double in the last 40 years.
- Today, 2 in 4 people survive their cancer for at least 10 years. Cancer Research UK’s ambition is to accelerate progress so that by 2034, 3 in 4 people will survive their cancer for at least 10 years.
- Cancer Research UK supports research into all aspects of cancer through the work of over 4,000 scientists, doctors and nurses.
- Together with its partners and supporters, Cancer Research UK’s vision is to bring forward the day when all cancers are cured.
Statements pertaining to future financial and/or operating and/or clinical research results, future growth in research, technology, clinical development, and potential opportunities for Asterias, along with other statements about the future expectations, beliefs, goals, plans, or prospects expressed by management constitute forward-looking statements. Any statements that are not historical fact (including, but not limited to statements that contain words such as “will,” “believes,” “plans,” “anticipates,” “expects,” “estimates”) should also be considered to be forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements involve risks and uncertainties, including, without limitation, risks inherent in the development and/or commercialization of potential products, uncertainty in the results of clinical trials or regulatory approvals, need and ability to obtain future capital, and maintenance of intellectual property rights. Actual results may differ materially from the results anticipated in these forward-looking statements and as such should be evaluated together with the many uncertainties that affect the businesses of Asterias, particularly those mentioned in the cautionary statements found in Asterias’ filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Asterias disclaims any intent or obligation to update these forward-looking statements.